How to Square, Flatten, & Dimension Rough Boards with Hand Tools {10 Steps}

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Blog entry by WoodAndShop posted 09-27-2014 11:45 PM 10875 reads 5 times favorited 5 comments Add to Favorites Watch

In the above video, and in the below 10 steps, I teach one of the most basic and essential skills in traditional woodworking: how to square, flatten, & dimension your own rough lumber into finished boards.

To build quality traditional furniture, you need to start with perfectly flat and square lumber. Some people achieve this with power jointers, planers, and table saws. While the electrical power route is more economical for a commercial woodworking workshop, I prefer the safety, exercise, quiet, and historical feeling that comes from dimensioning my boards by hand. Plus, it just makes you feel cool.

Sure it takes a little longer, but why did you get into woodworking in the first place? To hurry and build a bunch of stuff, or to enjoy yourself? It’s therapeutic to take some things slowly. And with practice, squaring lumber by hand won’t take all that long…ask your ancestors.

Even though I have a nice tool buying guide (here), I’m still often asked for links to the tools that I use in my videos, so here they are:


-Sjoberg Elite 2500 Beech Workbench (with optional tool cabinet)


-Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Rabbet Block Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 5 Jack Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 4 Smoothing Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 4 1/2 Smoothing Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 7 Jointer Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 6 Fore Plane
-Vintage Stanley No. 8 Jointer Plane
-Vintage Wooden Jointer Plane


-Vintage Disston No. 16 Cross Cut Panel Saw
-Vintage Disston No. D-8 Rip Panel Saw
-Vintage Millers Falls Miter box and miter saw


-Starrett 6-inch combination square
-Vintage metal try square
-Veritas Wheel Marking Gauge
-Lie-Nielsen panel gauge
-Wooden Straight Edge (see my tutoria)
-Staedtler Mars 780 Technical Mechanical Pencil
-Winding sticks (don’t buy…make your own)
-Vintage Metal Try Square

Use a longer try square (12″ +) to mark your rough board’s approximate length.

Due to the detail & length of this tutorial, it is continued here at it’s original location.

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

5 comments so far

View Vince's profile


1291 posts in 4541 days

#1 posted 10-05-2014 06:24 AM

Excellent tutorial it was very helpful.
I thank you.

-- Vince

View WoodAndShop's profile


149 posts in 2621 days

#2 posted 10-05-2014 07:55 PM

You’re welcome Vince!

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

View Matt's profile


137 posts in 2994 days

#3 posted 11-15-2014 01:32 AM

I got some 1×12 pine last week and the cupping seems to have doubled since I brought it home from the store. Your tutorial is very helpful, especially the part where you show how to plane down to final thickness. That was something I’d been wondering about all afternoon since I began trueing up my boards. Thanks for clearing it up!

View WoodAndShop's profile


149 posts in 2621 days

#4 posted 11-15-2014 02:41 PM

Glad I could simplify it for you Matt! Have you been to my website yet? I’ve got a lot of tutorials like this.

-- Joshua Farnsworth - Free Traditional Hand Tool Woodworking Tutorials:

View ajw1978's profile


165 posts in 2533 days

#5 posted 12-05-2014 06:58 PM

I’ve been daydreaming about a time and a place in which I have money—and space—for a high-end planer. But, reminds me there is a way to do without, that there was a time this was the only way … and i find myself in the perfect situation to learn the craft of truly hand-made.

-- May the good Lord help me if I ever actually have a shop, garage or basement.

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